Overcoming Challenges of Digital Learning

Edtech webinar February 2021

Over the past year, teachers and students have had to quickly adapt to an increased amount of digital learning. This has not been without challenges that continue to cause frustration for schools and families.


Examples of digital citizenship tools (keeping students and privacy safe):

Resources for Online Assessments:

Engagement Ideas:

Publisher Platform Support:

Digital Learning Platform Support for Teachers

Read the transcript below:

Overcoming Challenges of Digital Learning

Speaker: Lacey Woolfrey

All right. Thank you for joining us for today’s webinar. Today we’re going to be talking about overcoming challenges of digital learning. My name is Lacey Wolfrey and I’m with Ed Tech Solutions. We work with teachers in schools and this is our monthly webinar that we designed to help you as teachers. So I really appreciate you taking your time to join us, and hopefully what you find today will be helpful. And we’ll also be sending out a recording after the fact to be able to reference and share afterwards as well. So thanks again for being here and we’ll go ahead and get started.

Today we’re going to be talking about some challenges that we hear from teachers that we work with every day. And here we are now, almost a year into all of the abrupt changes that happened with the COVID pandemic and while digital learning isn’t as crazy as it was maybe this time about a year ago, it’s still comes with some challenges as we’re still adapting and working through that.

So today some of the topics we’re going to talk about is digital citizenship, administering assessments, managing screen time, really looking at how to increase that student engagement, and also talk about some teacher training resources that are available as well. And I encourage you all to use the chat feature as we’re going through some of these topics. If there are some other resources that you know about, please drop those links in the chat feature. If you have any questions, please put those in there as well.

We really appreciate you all being here and I know teachers sharing among teachers is oftentimes the best resources. So thank you for that. All right.

Digital Citizenship

So the first topic here, digital citizenship. There’s been a quick learning curve for many, but we’ve been in the digital learning space at EdTech for over 10 years and so it is something that we work with on a daily basis.

So, really the first thing here with digital citizenship is keeping the students safe online. That is first and foremost what we’re looking to do is protect our privacy. So really if you haven’t started out already with a written policy in place, I encourage you to do that and have something that you can reference to when issues do come up, but really keeping the student’s information private, passwords private, not sharing any of those online is key there.

And then within your own classroom policies and how you handle online interaction with your students, be sure that you’re keeping in mind the district or your school policies as well and if there aren’t any concrete policies in place, working together as a team to decide what those should be and have something in writing and communicate those policies and procedures to your students and to the student parents and the families as well so they know the right way to act, and that includes things like bullying and what’s appropriate use of the chat features, all of that.

And then as new tech is great and provides lots of solutions to some of these issues that we’re encountering, really taking the time to choose the technology wisely and make sure that the technology that you’re introducing to your students and using in your classroom, aren’t going to open the door for something that could potentially be unsafe. So definitely some good resources there. We’ll also include some examples of some of these policies and digital citizenship tools. We’ll include some of those as we send out the recording as well so you have those to refer to as well.

Online Assessments

All right, the next one. This is one that pops up as questions that we hear from our teachers all the time is how do we do assessments online? Many schools are still 100% remote and so this definitely poses a challenge. And I know in the beginning, many teachers… it was just about engagement with the students and making sure that all of the students were able to access the classroom environments and really gauge… There were a lot of uneasy emotions, and you’re really of going with the basics therapy. Now here a year later assessments and taking a look at what is being learned and measuring that. How to measure that continues to be a challenge and so some of the publishers have provided resources like Pearson and McGraw Hill.

There’s some integrated tools there, as well as some of the LMS like Blackbaud, Canvas, a lot of resources there too. So we’ll talk about some of those, but what has been shared by a lot of teachers that have been working is the use of a virtual study hall. And this can be used in the form of Zoom or GoToMeeting or WebEx, whatever video forum your school is using and having that time set up to monitor the test taking and so that way, if students have questions about what is on the quiz or the test that they’re taking, rather than reaching out and sharing answers among peers, they’re able to chat the teacher or whoever is facilitating that study hall while they’re taking the assessment. So that’s one solution that has been used.

What a lot of schools did is reassess the percentage of the grade. Many times, a unit exam could be anywhere from 10 to 20% or more of the grade. A lot of schools decided to go with some other options as far as using a rubric or other ways of measuring competencies and lowering the percentage of what those assessments’ weight was on the actual grade. So, that’s one thing that schools have done.

Another is open book tests and so going away from multiple choice options and have some of those written answers that they’re able to use the books to find the answer really, to gauge what the students have learned and to be able to use that. And then again, some of those integrated schools using forums, posting individual questions, using some of those test banks within the publisher platforms that the students can take the assessments right from the platform and the grades and everything goes directly to the teacher. Teachers are able to customize those as well.

Managing Screen Time

All right. So the next challenge here is managing screen time. So I’m sure everyone, including the teachers, experienced an increase in time in front of the screens. That’s where a lot of our interactions are happening, in front of the screen. So while eBooks and technology to facilitate learning are amazing and great and allowed learning to continue, it can be overkill. So there could be such thing as tech fatigue and so some of the ways that teachers have gotten creative on how do we facilitate this learning online, but also get the kids out from front of the screen to be able to continue that learning without overwhelming everyone in front of the screen.

So some of the options that have worked great for teachers are journal links. So posing a question to the students and allowing them to use the time offline then to be able to reflect upon the question that’s been asked, then to write down that information, send that back in to the teacher, or take a picture of it if they’re handwriting so different ways you can get creative with journaling. Same thing with the worksheets.

And then, in a lot of those integrated schools, the online learning platforms have some very dynamic tools. So using some of those discussion boards, putting your students into learning groups together that they can work on solving problems together whether that is offline and then sharing among their peers, or doing the work individually, but then meeting up to discuss it afterwards.

Another great tool is Scavenger Hunts. This can be used in all different classes where they’ve got a list of questions, and then they’ve got to find the resources and the answers offline, and then to be able to come back together and share that information.

And again, I encourage any of you, if there are some other things that have worked well for you, please feel free to share those in the chat with each other so you can take away some additional resources and share with each other.

Maintaining Student Engagement

All right. A lot of that screen time and tech fatigue can lead to challenges with keeping student engagement up. And so that can definitely be a challenge. And so using some of those tips to break up the amount of time just sitting in front of the computer is a really great way to do that.

‘Temperature checks’ with the students, if you are working completely online. It’s really important to find a way to connect individually to each student, because it’s so easy when you aren’t in a classroom environment to be able to visually pick up on some cues that you would when you’re face to face. Finding ways to do that remotely or online, just with a quick check-in with your students, is really, really important to make sure that each student is able to have the tools that they need to continue to learn.

So I’m going to share some of the resources that we’ve found from teachers that have worked really well.

Choice Boards

Some of the great things that are out there are different choice boards. And so if you’ve got an objective as the instructors that you want your students to learn, all of your students learn in a different way, your hands are a little bit tied when you’re not face-to-face to be able to individually respond to the students. But this is a great resource to be able to offer choices to your students that will still allow the learning objective to be completed, but give the students some choice as well. So this is for an English class and this would be different options. And so it’s a tic-tac-toe board there. I’ll share the links as well so you can revisit some of these afterwards, but this is a great option to be able to provide those options to your students, keep them engaged, have them be a participant in their learning, as far as what works best for them, the types of answers that they do best with and give them those options there.

HyperDocs- Student Challenge

All right. Another one that I love, and this is through Hyperdoc, which I encourage you to check out Hyperdoc. There are some free options for teachers, but this is a Google classroom student challenge. This could be used whether or not you’re using Google classroom. It can be used with just the Hyperdocs as well, but it’s really an awesome option for getting your students involved in how the learning process looks within your classroom. And so I just wanted to show you this and some of the options that are here. So able to click on each of the links here. You can share this as slides. You can share the individual sheets, but a way to keep up that engagement by having the students be a part of the creation of what the community in your remote classroom or your online classroom looks like.

And they’re able to build it, be owners of it. This works great for a middle school or high school classroom to where each of the students own a piece of it together. So it really allows them to reflect on what they want to get out of the class and how that’s going to work on a day-to-day basis. So then you’ve got their involvement in creating it, their engagement throughout and something to reference if they’re hitting a wall or you’re hitting a wall, bringing them back to what was created by the class.

Learning Menus and Choice Boards

All right. Another great option to be able to use for engagement is more learning menus and choice boards. And so these are great ways to allow you to differentiate learning. Teachers have gotten so creative and have been amazing to share resources with each other.

And so there are some great tools ranging from elementary school, all the way up through high school to be able to use within (if you’re using Google or if you’re using Microsoft, or even if you’re just using a different LMS all on its own) there are some great tools that you can use here to give your students some additional choices for all sorts of subjects.

And I will also send this link out so everyone can access those. So teachers have been extremely creative and amazing to share what has been working in their classes.

Happy Place Reflection

Another awesome activity that I saw was a great way to get students using their resources online to be able to create a project. So this is called the Happy Place Reflection, and it is an excellent writing example for students in coming up with the story, what is their place telling about it, finding it on Google maps.

There’s a video link in here with the instructions and this could be used for any sort of assignment or activity, no matter what subject you teach to be able to have the objective of the lesson, include a little video lecture or instructions from USC instructors, and then what you want them to fill in the story about it. The instructions here, adding the examples, lots of different ways that you can use either this as a specific example or as a template to create an assignment yourself.

Pear Deck

Another great resource that helps to keep your students engaged and learning and temperature checks is Pear Deck. And so there are free versions and then there are paid versions too, that I know a lot of teachers that use that allows them to have the students send the information directly to them. And so I’ll show you an example of some of those here.

And then Hyperdocs as well is another great resource from teachers. And there are free options here. You can search lessons based on subject, based on age and there are all sorts of templates that you can use for all different subjects, different engagements and these are all free resources.

There’s also templates in here you can create and share and this is all amazing work that has been shared by teachers and that is free to help if you’ve run out of ideas on how to keep your students engaged. This is a great one here.

So I told you I’d share some of the examples from Pear Deck. So these are examples of some of the slides that can be used with your students to get a ‘temperature gauge.’ So there are sites that you can use in the beginning of the class, middle of the class, end of the class, different assessments and information goes directly to the teacher, which is great. You can get feedback on the lessons, temperature checks from them, instructions. When the students arrive, you can include all of the different steps on what they’re going to be working on, incorporating stretch breaks. These are all templates that are included, but you can also create your own within Pear Deck. So if you want to do an assessment or learning checks throughout, you can include those here as well.

Teacher Training

All right. Then the final topic that we’re talking about today is teacher training. And so I have a good guess that teacher training is important to you as you are all here joining me today. So learn about how to engage with your students better and how to be able to teach more effectively.

And so ongoing teacher training is huge. There are lots of places that training is available, where you’re not sitting for hours in a professional development. It’s something that you can share quickly, but publishers have tons of resources. And so if you’re using an online platform or online publishers take advantage of the training resources that they have available. All of the major publishers have live webinars that you can register and sign up for, recorded webinars, all sorts of just links to how to more effectively use it.

And I encourage and challenge each of you to carve out time on a weekly basis to become an expert in something that you can really more effectively reach your students and you can also share with your peers as well what’s working for you. If you’re already using one of these platforms, your school has invested thousands of dollars to make these resources available to you, so I highly encourage you to take advantage of what’s available there.

The same thing with any LMS that you’re using. I know Blackbaud offers free training resources for teachers. Canvas has free training resources for teachers. So find out what is available, take just a few minutes out of your day to learn something new that will allow you to be able to reach your students.

And then other online tools. I’m going to share all of those links for Hyperdocs and Pear Deck and all of these, Pinterest tools that teachers are sharing.

And then the final one that I wanted to remind, I know our clients, we share this often, but it’s available to schools that we work with or not. We have assembled all of these shortcuts to the publisher platform trainings that are available. And so you’ll have that link after this as well, but it can be tricky sometimes where to find these resources.

So that’s why we have compiled this list of where to find all of the training tutorials for all of the digital platforms. And so with this link on our website, you can find all of that available.

If there is specific platforms training that you’re looking for, you can always fill out this form here. We provide free training to teachers that we work with at EdTech Solutions, but we love to help ensure resources with any teachers, any schools, whether you’re a client of ours or not. So I wanted to make sure all of you know that this is available as a resource as well.

We also have different professional development tools that are available too on lots of different topics beyond eBooks, beyond online learning.

So I encourage you to check those out as well. If you have any questions, we are here as a resource for teachers. We love to help.

And then the final help that we offer here for training is these monthly teacher training webinars. And so again, I appreciate that you’ve taken your time. We pick topics every month that we hear from teachers they want to learn more about. If you have something specific that you would like to see included in these monthly webinars, fill out this form here and let us know if there’s something specific that you have a challenge with that you would like to find out what other teachers are doing, find out what is available out there for help and we’ll try and incorporate that in an upcoming webinars too.

We do have time left. I would love to hear any questions that anyone has or anything else that has been working well for you relating to any of these topics. And if you’re shy, you can put it in the chat. If not, you can feel free to unmute and speak up. Happy to help answer any questions.

All right. I will stay on for just a few more minutes. If anyone has a one-on-one question, I’d be happy to answer it.

That concludes our webinar for today. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to join us. We look forward to seeing you next month and please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.

All right. Ted asked a great question about resources for teaching both on campus and remote learning at the same time. We do. That’s a great question.

Our November Webinar was dedicated to blended learning. So Ted, I will send you a link to that webinar that we had before. And I will also send you some of the links that were included with that as well as a resource, because that is certainly a challenge when you have some students that are face-to-face, some that are remote and a mix of both. So, yes, I will send those out to you, Ted, because that’s huge. Great question.

All right. Thanks again for joining. If anyone has any questions after the fact, please feel free to contact us on our website. You can email me directly. My email is teachersupport@edtechsolutions.com and I am happy to help. I hope you all have a great rest of your day.

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